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Thoughts on DineLA2011

Did anyone go to any of the restaurants last year? What should we avoid? I think I'm going to try some this year.

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    1. Drago centro was really disappointing, the food sounded great, execution was at best mediocre. What a buzz kill because I had heard great things from many people about this place. Water grill is a safe bet, had a great meal with friends there, service was first class.

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      Drago Restaurant
      2628 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90403

      10 Replies
      1. re: chezwhitey

        Too bad about your experience at Drago. I love the place, and it was as good as always last week (not DineLA). I'll be going to Water Grill tonight for their DineLA menu, and then BLD, Spago, and Upstairs 2 later in the cycle. May try to squeeze one or 2 more in as well.

        1. re: smgradman

          Fogo De Chao is a great deal. $44 for something that costs, $60, I think. Since I found that FDC is a part of DineLA, I don't go at other times.

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          Fogo De Chao
          133 N La Cienega Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

          1. re: reality check

            Since it also includes desert, it's an even better deal!

            1. re: manku

              DineLA menu at Water Grill was a great bargain, especially since they still have their "no corkage fee" policy. But be aware that they now only offer a shuttle to Disney Hall and the Music Center on Saturday night.

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              Water Grill
              544 South Grand, Los Angeles, CA 90071

              1. re: smgradman

                Glad to hear you liked the water grill, I was really impressed with not only their food but professionalism and friendliness. This is why I like dineLA so I can try new places and know where to go when I want to splurge rather than doing it blind.

                1. re: chezwhitey

                  I went to Water Grill on Sunday and even though I had planned to order from the DINE LA menu changed my mind once I was at the restaurant....on Sunday the restaurant has a three-course New England clambake (whole lobster, clams, mussels, linguica, etc.) for only a few dollars more than the DINELA entree....the meal was fabulous....the dessert (maple budino) was exquisite, great coffee, and service was flawless....I found the ambience a bit dated but the meal and service more than made up for the location....I will be going to Bazaar next and it is also a first time visit....if I could afford three restaurants I would also go to Spago or Chinois; the last time I visited these restaurants was in the 80's

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                  Water Grill
                  544 South Grand, Los Angeles, CA 90071

                  Spago
                  176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                  1. re: foufou

                    Yes, I was tempted by the clambake as well, but ended up being very happy with the DineLA menu. I went to BLD last night, an excellent $34 menu. Both the mushroom/chestnut soup and the duck confit tostada were tasty starters, the whole steelhead on truffled potatoes was delicious, and the desserts very nice as well. Also, the $21 wine flight was a surprising bargain: 04 Alsatian Gwz, 06 Burgundy, 98 Sauterne.

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                    BLD Restaurant
                    7450 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036

                    1. re: smgradman

                      Good to know, I'm making rezzies there next.

              2. re: manku

                if you have space for desert after eating at FdC, I commend your restraint.

                1. re: manku

                  We went last night to Fogo de Chao...and came home happy and fat campers. Excellent food, great service, and I was so full I needed to take the dessert home. Thanks to FdC for another lovely gluttonous evening.

          2. Yes, I have gone three times. I tried Craft and was not impressed by the food. I tried Street and was underwhelmed. I am going to try LA Market in the JW Marriott at LA Live (downtonw Los Angeles) next Friday for dinner, and I have a feeling it's going to be great. The Mixing Room, across from LA Market, is a nice place for cocktails when in the LA Live area. I have a fond memory of having dinner at Luna Park for DineLA last year. It was very good, and I almost hosted a party there because I liked it that much. I haven't been there since, though, so I can't say if things have changed or not.

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            Luna Park
            672 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036

            4 Replies
            1. re: katkoupai

              I just wanted to post my experience at LA Market (inside the JW Marriott hotel at LA Live). The food was great. I had the beet salad, rib, and pumpkin cheesecake for dessert. Excellent service, delicious bread basket, good starter cocktail (pomegranate jalapeno and tequila-- it was called "Pomegranate Heat"). Best Dine LA menu I've had so far in the last 2 years. Total cost was about $60 per person for the Dine LA dinner menu, one cocktail and a 17% tip. My only complaint is I would've liked more beets and goat cheese and no frise in the beet salad. I love beets, and I think a red leaf lettuce bed would've been nicer than the frise for that particular starter. Overall, very pleased.

              1. re: katkoupai

                Photos of Dine LA at LA Market:

                 
                 
                 
                1. re: katkoupai

                  Glad at least you had a good experience at LA market. i went there today for lunch and was absolutely disappointed. Awful service, average food. First I arrived 10 minutes early for my reservation but was still made to wait 20 minutes despite the restaurant only being half full. At least the hostess was semi apologetic about that, for some reason she may have thought we had more people in our party. Anyway, after we sit down, we were not given any bread unlike the other tables. We then had to wait over 25 minutes since we ordered our dishes before the first course came out. This is when our bread came out also The waiter was apologetic and puzzled that our food had not come out. Immediately after we finished, they brought our entrees, no time in between courses, just pick up old dish, put in new dish. Same for desert. Overall the service was a complete cluster f.... Multiple people asking for our orders, lack of silverware etc. In defense of the staff, while their communication was inept at best, at least they weren't rude. The food itself was ok, nothing special, nothing really game changing, hamachi app, roasted chicken nice truffled potatoes, red velvet cake. At least they didn't send us home hungry because the velvet cake portion was huge. Overall, I would not go back, I'd rather even go to wolfgang puck bar and grill in the same complex. The one highlight was seeing the HK winner, Nona manning the pass.

                  1. re: chezwhitey

                    Hi, sorry your experience was so poor. When I got there, I got seated right away, even though my friend was still parking. We had a reservation. The restaurant was fairly busy, at 2/3 full. Our server was excellent and very attentive. My friend is an avid Yelper, and she loved her food, too. She got the pumpkin ravioli, a mojito and the apple pie for dessert. We've both done DineLA a number of times and both thought it was our best DineLA meal in a while. I wonder if they were short on staff in the kitchen and in front when you went. I'll try to check out the WP Bar and Grill, that you mentioned. It sounds good. I do love WP24 for a cocktail.

            2. Went to Lawry's last night for DineLA. Everything was superb. I was especially impressed with the lobster tail - sweet, succulent, delicious!
              Palate Food+Wine tomorrow. Maybe Craft this weekend.
              Last October's DineLA we had fabulous meals at Spago and Water Grill.

              10 Replies
              1. re: WildSwede

                Sorry you can't do Craft DineLA on the weekend as they are closed Sundays.

                1. re: wienermobile

                  Too bad about Craft closing on Sunday. It used to be their corkage-free night.

                2. re: WildSwede

                  Thanks for posting about Lawry's. I still have never been there, and I've been meaning to check it out for years. Last year, I wanted to go for DineLA and the year before that, I wanted to just go, but most of my foodie friends have had their eyes on other places. I will make it there, eventually.

                  1. re: WildSwede

                    Lawry's is also a great deal, prime rib and lobster + dessert and salad for $44? A steal.

                    1. re: WildSwede

                      This year they are including Saturdays, I heard somewhere (not sure if it is true or not). Someone on one of the meetup groups is planning it. Either way, it is full, so I won't be doing it this time around. ;-(

                      1. re: WildSwede

                        Individual restaurants may choose to offer the DineLA deal on Saturdays, but officially it is Sunday through Friday only.

                          1. re: smgradman

                            Craft is participating for Saturdays as well. I just booked mine for Saturday Jan 28th, and they'll be doing it on Feb 4th, too.

                        1. re: WildSwede

                          Went to Palate Food+Wine last night. Had 7pm reservations but got there a little early. No problem, they seated us anyway. In the back bar room. We were the only diners there when we got there, but by the time we left, the place was packed. They were having a $10 Pinot Noir (I think that was the wine) tasting that night. And the bar got really full.
                          The interior is very nice with various rooms. Music was nice (at first - more on that later).
                          Our waitress ended up also being the bartender and she was very good. We also really liked the runners, one of which gave us 'tips" on how to eat things. Helpful.
                          We ordered: we both got the ricotta gnocchi / melted leeks / crispy potatoes / honshimejii mushrooms appetizer. It was pretty good. For mains, I ordered the black cod / celery root / brussels sprouts / kumquat + bacon + pistachio relish. This dish did not seem to come together for me. The cod was cooked to perfection - creamy white and tender. But unless you got a piece of bacon, the dish was pretty bland. My friend ordered the duck leg confit / stewed chickpeas / radicchio / black olives / preserved orange. She kept stopping mid bite and saying things like "this is delicious" "this is so good", so I am assuming she really, really liked it (in fact, her empty plate attested to this fact). For dessert, I ordered the buttermilk panna cotta / winter fruits / orange blossom h2o. The h2o was phenomenal - especially with the tiny slivers of blood orange, ruby grapefruit and orange floating in it. The panna cotta - not so much. I think it would have been good on its own with maybe some sort of caramel or chocolate sauce but the buttermilk just seemed to overwhelm the delicateness of the orange blossom water. About half of the panna cotta was left with none of the water. My friend ordered the persimmon cake / cinnamon anglaise / dates. These little cakes were good. I thought they were some sort of lavender flavor, not persimmon. Two tiny cakes in a bundt-cake shape on the angllaise. The slivered dates really brought this together. We also ordered the olives and the Porkfolio. The bartender recommended a really nice white wine (of course I cannot remember the name) which went very well with my dish. All in all, my favorites were the Gnocci, porkfolio and olives. I could have done without the other items. The bread they serve with butter is very good and I love the bread crisps they served with the porkfolio (I think they serve the same ones with their potted items - definitely want to try those at some point).
                          Now, back to the music. As we were eating, the music got so loud that we could not even hear eachother. I know I missed a lot of what my friend said and I had to have her repeat herself every time she spoke. We asked if they could turn down the music, and it seemed maybe they did, but then the next song it was just as loud as before. We joked that what we thought was turning down the music was actually the end of a song! Then all of a sudden jazz music started blaring - BLARING. I said "is there a band in here?". Sure enough, there was a band playing in the next room (the room we had to walk through to get to our table). It was uncomfortably loud. Obnoxiously loud. Unacceptably loud. That, mixed with all the people in the bar (only 2 tables were not sat when we left) and the non-existent acoustics, it became really painful. We left.
                          Service was great. Timing of dishes really good. I would probably go back and skip their mains and desserts and stick with several apps. They seem to execute these the best.
                          If you plan on going here, be sure to request the front room if you would like to hear your dining companions. If you don't care to speak with them sit in the bar room

                          1. re: WildSwede

                            Cafe Pinot was good last two years for lunch. Went to Border Grill last week and they are giving half portions for the DineLA menu, ie half portion app, skinny little sliver of the goat flan. The main was reasonably sized. Even with a $10 coupon off the $16 base price, by the time you add tax tip and parking it came out as a "meh".

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                            Cafe Pinot
                            700 West Fifth St., Los Angeles, CA 90071

                        2. Can anyone recommend a dineLA lunch spot in downtown besides Water Grill, Border Grill, and Starry Kitchen?
                          I was thinking Magnolia, The Farm, or LA Market but I haven't heard much about these three.. Thanks for the help.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: toonoble

                            Went to wolgang at la live, not for dine la but nye I had the prix fix menu and was pleasantly surprised. If you can handle the cheesiness that is la live and epileptic seizure inducing lights, I'd say give it a try.

                            1. re: toonoble

                              don't waste such a good deal @The Farm - the food is mediocre. not sure how LA Market is, but i've never been wowed by Kerry Simon's food at SimonLA so it's not on my must-try list.

                              if i were in your shoes i'd try Mas Malo...i haven't been there yet, but preliminary reports are positive.

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                I saw a review of Mas Malo in the LA Times today. Apparently, some of the meat (for example, the carnitas) is marinated in Coke to make it tender. Wow! Seems decadent and potentially hazardous to one's health, or in other words, worth checking out. :)

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                                Mas Malo
                                515 W 7th St, Los Angeles, CA 90014

                              2. re: toonoble

                                I vote for Magnolia, but I haven't tried Water Grill or Starry Kitchen. I went to Magnolia in downtown LA for DineLA last year. I was pleasantly surprised by the quaility and freshness of the food (everything tasted homemade, from scratch, from the main meal to the dessert), and the price was also right. I would definitely go back for DineLA there. I had the steak (it was a thin steak, perhaps skirt steak) and the berry cobbler for dessert. The cobbler came warm with a small scoop of ice cream. As I recall, the drinks from the bar were pretty good, too.

                              3. We went to Jar last night. Lovely meal, best service we've had in quite some time.

                                There is a small rib-eye on the DineLA menu given to you at the restaurant that is not listed on the website. Came with fries, which were excellent.

                                The butterscotch pudding totally rocked the house.

                                1. Went to Raymond Restaurant in Pasadena for Dine LA 2011 yesterday. It was a great deal. They have the 34 dollar dinner menu and it was delicious.

                                  1. Enjoyed dineLA at Cheval Blanc in Pasadena last October - classic French fare but very nicely done.
                                    A little disappointed in Henry's Hat in Studio City this year - the dineLA menu is the same price as their regular special menu with less offerings. I would have liked to have seen something different from them as they used to offer more unusual fare... The food is good; it's just not worth wasting a dineLA night on since the deal isn't.
                                    Hoping to try a few others this week, but haven't been able to find the time yet.

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                                    Cheval Blanc
                                    41 S De Lacey Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

                                    1. Very nice DineLA menu for $34. Large portions, enough to take some home. Tasty little pizza, very good short ribs, nice little cheesecake.

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                                      Hal's Bar & Grill
                                      1349 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

                                      1. Went to Taste on Melrose for DineLA last night. Dinner prices is low, $26. Did the whole sharing thing with one friend.

                                        Started with White Truffle Oil & Mushroom mac / cheese. nice burnt cheese crust. Very light put pleasing cheese taste. Severe lack of mushrooms though.

                                        other app was roasted red, blood orange & organic baby arugula salad. What a major let down. I'm a big beet fan, and this was not close to tasty.

                                        Entrees were the kobe beef meatballs which were pretty tasty. A very, very soft meatball with a creamy kobe feel. The linguine / alfredo was the best part of this dish.

                                        roasted jidori chicken breast was pretty good. loose skin and just beyond perfectly cooked. the mashed potatoes that come as a side were pretty bad. basically a few mashed potatoes on heaps of sour cream.

                                        For desert we let the waitress (who was awesome) talk us into chocolate brioche bread pudding time two. We both ordered it. Our mistake. This was one of the worst deserts I've had in a long time. The extremely limited amount of custard only reminded me of the Rice Pudding at Lazy Ox. I should not want to actually be somewhere else when dining out.

                                        Overall, cheap dineLA price on Melrose, but not a place I'll be going back to.

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                                        Taste
                                        8454 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069

                                        1. We had a lovely lunch at Chinois on Main: we both had warm curried oysters followed by barbequed salmon with black and gold noodles (great crispy salmon skin!). Dessert was sorbets for DH and a trio of creme brulees for me (choc/caramel/plain) with french macaroons.

                                          1. Finally went to Lawry's for DineLA last night. $44 gets you 3 courses.

                                            Starts with a plate of salad (lettuces, beets, eggs, croutons, hybrid catalina dressing). This salad is pretty good, but is not something I would re-visit.

                                            Then an 8oz. cut of prime rib, mashed potatoes, gravy, and a modest lobster tail. Lobster tail was cooked perfectly and tasted pretty good. The star is the prime rib. There is no doubt, this place does it right. The gravy and mash were pretty standard, meh. I added the creamed spinach, which is not worth the price.

                                            Was with a friend so we shared both deserts, CC Browns hot fudge sundae and the triffle. Both were pretty good but standard deserts. Based on their plainness, I would never order either of these if it weren't included in the DineLA bundle.

                                            Overall, I'm glad I finally got to try Lawry's. The prime rib was excellent but the salads, sides and deserts do not justify a return for me. Way too expensive for rather standard food. If you do go, at least the prime rib will not disappoint.

                                            -----
                                            Lawry's Prime Rib
                                            100 N La Cienega Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90211

                                            2 Replies
                                              1. re: ns1

                                                I gotta admit, I'm kind of craving that salad dressing right now ;)

                                            1. Had a lovely dineLA meal last night at Lucques. It is a favorite but a friend had never been and I always love an excuse to go. The food was, as always, stellar, as was the service. But I love the place :)

                                              Appetizers: I love Suzanne Goin's soups and the Farro/Green Garlic soup was no exception. Just wonderful, light, fresh, yet very flavorful, and made even better by pecorino toast. My friend had the citrus salad with avocado and pistachio, which was small but incredible.

                                              For entrees, he had the winter vegetables with cous-cous. This sounded pretty average and it was not. The vegetables were beautifully roasted and were accompanied by wonderful flavors. We both loved it. I always love her chicken dishes as well, so I had to try the grilled chicken paillard. Incredible (and rich)... the parmesan pudding under it (with spinach salad) was decadent. And it came also with a soft egg. All the tastes together were wonderful.

                                              Lucques has never been my favorite place for desserts. Last night was no exception. We had good desserts, just not mind blowing. Being a savory over sweet person, I've never much cared. We were both very content. If you have never been, it is a good introduction.

                                              -----
                                              Lucques
                                              8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Tom P

                                                Isn't Lucques Dine LA special basically the same thing as their Sunday Dinner, including the same price?

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                                                Lucques
                                                8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                                                1. re: hobbess

                                                  Not quite. The Sunday Supper gives no choice for appetizer and dessert (one option) and only two choices for the entree. Their dineLA menu has three choices for each.

                                                  1. re: Tom P

                                                    Never been, looking forward to my reservation tomorrow night!

                                                    1. re: groover808

                                                      Went to DineLA at Lucques on Weds night for my birthday and it was fantastic. The three of us all loved our food. For apps, 2 of us had the Argula Salad and our 3rd had the other salad - both were great. Two of us had the hangar steak and the third had the winter vegetables and both were amazing. Steak and potatoes were cooked perfectly. We each had one of the three desserts but we all agreed that mine was the best - the sticky toffee pudding. Service was great.

                                                      -----
                                                      Lucques
                                                      8474 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069

                                              2. Spago for lunch rocked, totally great thing to do on a sunny Friday afternoon. Not so much the food (all very good) but the overall package, which was SO Beverly Hills fabulous as to be almost a cliche.

                                                To clarify the lunch menu as it is published on the DineLA website, the angolotti (which was celery root not chestnut) is available as an additional course for $12 and there is a 4th entree selection (a ribeye) for an additional $30. Dessert selections include toffee pudding, a choclate beggar's purse, assorted cookies and for $12 extra a cheese plate.

                                                We had the prosciutto and buratta (very good) and shrimp tempura (very good) appetizers, then we split the anglotti (excellent), then had the pork weinerschnitzel (very good) and potato gnocchi with lamb ragout (excellent). We each had the beggar's purse, which was a crepe filled with chocolate ganache (the size of a fist) with a scoop of vanilla ice cream sitting on a little meringue wafer and a bit of dark cherry sauce. It was very good. I had read here that DineLA portions were small, but we did not find this to be so in the least.

                                                The day was beautiful, we were seated on the patio and the overall meal was very, very satisfying. It did not blow our socks off, but we left happy and pleased with the world. Our waiter was a pleasant fellow, but a bit amaturish. Service overall seemed to have its lapses- very affable and relaxed, but not impeccable (for example, my bread, which I was still nibbling on, was whisked off while my attention was momentarily distracted by conversation with Mr. H). But the whole experience was so extremely easygoing, the meal was delicious, and our afternoon was a very fine one indeed.

                                                The DineLA lunch itself is a great deal at $28 a head. However, be warned: the place lulls you into a wine-drinking, supplement-adding sense of happiness, which can easily triple your costs. Still, we left contentedly parted from our cash. Two solid thumbs up for Spago.

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                                                Spago
                                                176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                                                1. Tried Chaya Downtown. Am glad I tried it for the ambience, but was just Ok to me. French onion soup's cheese wasn't melted/broiled enough but was otherwise good. Steak was mediocre, very little marbling & flavor. Butterscotch flan was good not great, very close to burnt tasting. Probably shoulda spent the extra $10 and went to Water Grill IMO.

                                                  -----
                                                  Water Grill
                                                  544 South Grand, Los Angeles, CA 90071

                                                  Chaya Downtown
                                                  525 S. Flower Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071

                                                  1. We did dinner last night at NineThirty at the W Hotel in Westwood. New executive chef Dakota Weiss started just a couple of weeks ago. We had:

                                                    Mache Salad (goat cheese fritters, balsamic roasted figs) - This needed a better dressing. It tasted like some sort of store bought cheep Italian dressing. Luckily there wasn't too much of it. The goat cheese was, of course, good, but the big where too heavily drenched in balsamic. They didn't taste much like fig. Fig season has been over for a while, though.

                                                    Chesnut and Mascaropone Ravioli with carmelized apples - My girl friend loved this one. Probably the highlight of the meal.

                                                    The other appetizer choice we didn't try was a celery root bisque.

                                                    Traditional Cassolet (Tuscan white beans, tomato confit, sausage, breadcrumbs) - This was another winner with my girlfriend. I thought it could have been seasoned a bit more.

                                                    Braised pork shank (Brussels spourts, golden raisin gremolata) - The meat was amazingly tender and no knife was necessary. I'm generally not a huge fan of braised meats, but found this to be decent. It was also served with what I think were beet greens. Definitely best with the various elements eaten together.

                                                    The other entree choice was a white wine braised loup de mer.

                                                    White Chocolate and Sour Cherry Bread Pudding (strawberry) - Good desert, but I thought it needed to be served warmer.

                                                    Cheese plate with assorted crackers, mixed nuts, and grapes - I've never had a cheese plate in a restaurant before and was anxious to try this. It was huge. In fact, I took over half of it home. There were about 10 different cheeses on the plate. They were all hard cheeses, but would have liked some soft cheeses in there for some variation. I have no idea what any of the cheeses were.

                                                    The other dessert choice was banana creme brulee.

                                                    We were also given decent bread accompanied by extremely soft butter mixed with maple syrup and chili flakes (which we both through was far too sweet; the chili flakes were not a factor) and olive tapenade.

                                                    I also had an excellent mojito made with dark Brazilian rum.

                                                    Overall, the food was decent, and the entree portions were immense. Service had a bit of a disinterested feel. Even though the decor made attempts at being very chic, I find it rather cold.

                                                    The restaurant normally offers any starter, any entree and any dessert for $52. I wouldn't rush back for dinner, but I'd probably go for happy hour (which offers buy 3 pay for 2 drinks and small plates priced at $9.30).

                                                    1. really enjoyed my dinner last night at La Cachette Bistro in santa monica on ocean.
                                                      Top quality.

                                                      -----
                                                      La Cachette
                                                      Little Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90067

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                                        Good to know, wsg, but I go by that place all the time, and it is always nearly empty even at peak dining hours. Hope he can keep it going during this recession.

                                                        1. re: Phurstluv

                                                          hosteria piccolo is also near you (606 broadway, santa monica) and i've gone back there three times, including today, to have their Dinela lunch (ricottina starter, papparadelle entree).

                                                      2. Olive Bar + Kitchen tonight. On Sunset in West Hollywood, near House of Blues.

                                                        $26 menu was a terrific value, food was solid and filling.

                                                        Starters were pizza Margherita (huge, maybe 6" x 12") and charcuterie (also huge). The pizza was good: sauce good, cheese good, crust decent- kind of a soft flatbread type crust. Tasty but in no way outstanding. Charcuterie was also HUGE. Two or three slices of 4 different meats, 4 cheeses (buratta, Gouda, blue, some buttery hard cheese), several substantially sized pieces of flatbread, 5 green olives, a good lump of fig jam and some seasoned walnuts. Either of these apps would have been more appropriate for 3-4 people to share.

                                                        Entrees were lasagna and chicken pot pie. Both very good and very filling. Lasagna was made to order, served in a skillet with bolognese, cheese and squares of pasta. Served with a dish of shaved Parmesan, again a huge amount, maybe 1/2 cup. Mr. H enjoyed immensely. Chicken pot pie was a rich veloute with chopped grilled chicken (dudes, everyone know shreds of poached chicken would be way better), carrots, peas, potatoes under a flaky pastry crust. Rich & well-seasoned, no weird off flavors or ingredients. Good, no way could I finish it all, big portion.

                                                        Dessert for Mr. H was the peanut butter chocolate cake. A 1 inch slice of maybe 6 layers of a deep chocolately cake with a pretty light texture, excellent peanut butter filling and a dark chocolate ganache. Definitely tasty. For me, a fat square (maybe 4x4) of a good, serviceable tiramasu- again, rich and filling.

                                                        We arrived 6:15 for dinner and found it was happy hour. Half price drinks and appetizers (obviously not if you are DineLAing). So a few glasses of wine for me, a couple of beers for Mr. H. Total came to $75, three course plus drinks.

                                                        Ambience was vibrant but not loud. Service was very eager and friendly for that area of Sunset. Overall a very nice casual meal. Food quite good, but the best part was really the value. In retrospect, we wish we'd ordered one DineLA menu and one entree. It would have been a more manageable amount of food.

                                                        $26 per person, $10 to valet or park across the street in the public lot for $2/hour.

                                                        1. Thus far, I have gone to Bar Pintxo, Comme Ca, Fogo de Chao, Kiriko, Meet, Napa Valley Grill, Night + Market and Vu. The best of these were Bar Pintxo, Fogo, Kiriko and Night + Market.

                                                          At Bar Pintxo, the menu chosen included Basque Clam Chowder (a spicier Manhattan); Duck with lentils, bacon and chorizo (sort of a mini-cassoulet); and churros with a small cup of thick hot chocolate for dipping/drinking (good but not as good as Churros Caliente). Well worth the $26/person.

                                                          Comme Ca was a lunch which, while not bad, lacked luster. The onion soup was ok but the broth lacked depth; the famed burger was quite good--albeit slightly too much under the requested medium--but the accompanying fries were too limp to have much character; the chocolate brioche pudding was tasty but not of the meltingly luscious sort that BIte (for example) showed is possible. Not a bad lunch for $28 including a choice of a red, white or rose wine.

                                                          Fogo was a steal at $44 for the feast of meat and salad bar presented, and it included dessert (I had a good key lime pie, though I still yearn for the one at Joe's Stone Crabs in Miami).

                                                          Kiriko was another excellent meal, $44 provided a chef's selection of three delicious appetizers (ankimo, an oyster on the half shell with ponzu and a tuna sashimi); an assortment of seven pieces of sushi (including a piece of seared toro) and a choice of handrolls; and I concluded with the wild honey vanilla ice cream with mixed berries.

                                                          Meet was pleasant enough but, even at $26, not exactly an inducement to return. Here, the starter chosen was escargot, served out of the shell in a too mild garlic and parsley sauce with a puff pastry cap; this was followed by under-flavored but decent moules provencales served with very good frites; dessert was a nice melting chocolate cake.

                                                          Napa Valley Grill was the biggest disappointment ($34). The starter here was a promising sounding lamb belly with house-made mint noodles and an olive-tomato sauce (whole olives and mini-tomatoes, not a paste); however, the saltiness of the olives totally overwhelmed even a hint of mint and the lamb belly, while tasty, lacked the unctuousness of a good pork belly. The "chicken fried" chicken came with aged cheddar grits and an apple salad which was piled on top of the chicken (a single, boneless breast)...while attractively piled, this does tend to make the crust less than crisp. The grits were good but the chicken will not prove any competition for that at Eva or even Paul Martin. Dessert was a doughy apple and fennel crostada.

                                                          The biggest surprise was Night + Market. There, $34 purchased an excellent meal of Yum Blue Crab (salted blue crab over green mango slaw with chiles); a Thai charcuterie plate of two types of Thai sausage; and a delicious ox-tail curry with roti--instead of dessert, a third savory course is offered, though there is the option to add a Thai ice cream sandwich for an additional $4.50. The room, adjacent to Talesai, is sparse, with two communal tables and a scattering of smaller ones, and a film is projected on the East wall throughout dinner.

                                                          Vu remains a place with more creativity than sense. Here, the starter was the unusual sounding chicken fried watermelon--a combination which failed to do justice to either part. The duck breast entree with dried and fresh cherries, duck cracklins, and a chocolate-red wine reduction was good but had too much going on to cohere as a dish one might crave to have again, the creamy goat cheese polenta that came with it was quite nice, though, and I would not mind seeing that added as a side dish to other entrees. Dessert was a good apple tart with cherry ice cream and (supposedly) tarragon powder. $34 is a decent price for the food and, if you have been meaning to try Vu, this is as good an excuse as any. Not likely to go into the regular rotation though.

                                                          Still have Chaya Brasserie to come and, if I can find the time (and space), Spago. Sadly, I will not be Downtown for lunch to try the wonderful sounding (and humorous) menu at Starry Kitchen nor to Santa Monica to try the lunch menu at Tiato (the homemade pastrami in the reuben seems so far out of their wheelhouse that I am intrigued).

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                                                          Spago
                                                          176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                                                          Kiriko
                                                          11301 W Olympic Blvd Ste 102, Los Angeles, CA 90064

                                                          Chaya Brasserie
                                                          8741 Alden Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                                                          Bar Pintxo
                                                          109 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

                                                          Talesai
                                                          9043 W Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

                                                          Starry Kitchen
                                                          350 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90071

                                                          Churros Calientes
                                                          11521 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90025-3007

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: New Trial

                                                            I have now added Chinois and Chaya Brasserie to the plus column for this run of DineLA. Chinois started with a crab cake topped with a shrimp in a lobster lemon grass sauce, the former was pretty good (not great) but the latter was very good. This was followed by a delicious lamb shank and a good caramelized banana tartlet for dessert ($44). The meal at Chaya ($34) was terrific, commencing with the very nice salmon mis-cuit in a mild wasabi cream with arugula crisps (not sure if it was deliberate but the piece of salmon even looked sort of fish shaped), followed by the excellent hokkaido scallop and shrimp pot pie (I would return for that alone) and a very good chocolate croissant bread pudding (marred only by a so-so scoop of too dense hazelnut ice cream).

                                                            -----
                                                            Chaya Brasserie
                                                            8741 Alden Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90048

                                                          2. I did the Water Grill lunch for 28.00. I had the clam chowder, the swordfish and the red velvet pudding cake. I thought the portions were small, especially the dessert, There was about 1tbls of ice cream on it. The food was excellent though, the fish was melt in my mouth.

                                                            I'm doing dinner on Friday at Wilshire restaurant.

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                                                            Water Grill
                                                            544 South Grand, Los Angeles, CA 90071

                                                             
                                                             
                                                             
                                                            1. I had the menu at Joes and was pleasantly surprised. I ordered the Di Stefano Buratta Panna & Beet Salad, Jamon Iberico De Bellota Upland Cress, Aged Balsamic, Leek Vinaigrette
                                                              to start. It was a pretty plating and everything worked together.
                                                              My entree was the grilled Fijiian Escolar, Local Squid, Crisp Pork Belly Parnip Puree, Fuyu Persimmon, Okinawan Potato, Citrus Vinaigrette though they subbed albacore for the escolar.
                                                              When they put down the pork tenderloin dish instead, I had second thoughts. I should have kept the mistaken dish since it looked much more interesting than the fish.

                                                              The plating of the fish was fish on one side and all the other bits on the other. It looked very haphazard and a bit sad. The fish was moist but the medley just didn't work. It sounded do much more interesting on paper. That said, it was good but not up to pay with other Joe Miller dinners I've had.

                                                              Dessert was the Salted Caramel Panna Cotta-Sticky Toffee Cake, Brown Butter Caramel, Whipped Cream. Small but delicious. Compared to the regular dessert our table ordered, it looked like a kids portion but I am not a huge dessert person so it was fine.

                                                              All in all, I feel it was a good deal and service (besides the entree mix-up) was good.

                                                              1. despite being a dine LA veteran, we went to Spago on Saturday, completely forgetting it's not a Dine LA day. So we just ordered off the regular menu and blew our entire Dine LA budget on the regular spago menu. The portions were immense, the food was outstanding, but it was really the experience, and service, more than anything that impressed us and made the evening just a fabulously wonderful time. And it lulled us in to three choices of wine, so go figure, we decided against dessert.

                                                                Altogether, I don't think it was much more expensive than Dine LA, our entrees averaged out to the price of two Dine LA dinners, so really we only spent more on the $20 appetizer (as we probably would have ordered a similar amount of wine). And the venison sweetbreads appetizer was truly outstanding, perhaps the highlight of the night.

                                                                I had their chicken with truffles, which was absurdly good, perfect even. And my companion had the salmon entree, which blew her mind (she'd never had salmon so fresh and perfectly cooked, I had, but when it was literally fresh off the boat in Seattle. :-p).

                                                                I felt a bit bad going to spago and ordering the Chicken and Salmon, but ironically, both of those were the entrees that jumped out at us as sounding the most delicious. They were out of the scallops, our first choice, but overall we have no complaints, and it really was the best dining experience we've ever had (jose andres was just a bit too schizophrenic, the table too small, the timing more off, although the food was better, I think). There's something to be said for an appetizer suddenly appearing as you set down an empty wine glass, water that is somehow magically refilled and bread that is out of this world delicious. The only thing that wasn't at the highest level, was the butter served with the bread, lol and that hardly seems complaint worthy.

                                                                -----
                                                                Spago
                                                                176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                                                                1. For many years (both before they closed and after they reopened) I had heard nothing but negative things about Gus's BBQ in South Pasadena. I had never been and had some free time during lunch the other day and decided to try them out. First, I decided to order the Chicken Fried Steak (not on the DineLA menu). $15. It arrived, burnt. I have to tell you, I have never been so happy that my food arrived burnt and that I was able to send it back. They bread their CFS in-house. It was non-remarkable and the gravy was thin with chunks of sausage in it. Burnt parts aside, not appetizing in the least. Their creamed corn is just plain weird tasting and the mashed potatoes were decent, but there was no gravy or butter on them - just a blob of mashed potatoes. I do not understand how cooks can send out something that is clearly burnt, but that is for another place and time. About 1/2 inch all the way around the CFS was burnt.
                                                                  So, I returned it. I then decided to change up my order and order off the DineLA menu. Boy am I glad I did! I ordered the Pulled Pork Nachos, the Baby Back Rib Sandwich (greens as my side) and the Blueberry Biscuit Cobbler for dessert. WOW. It was really good. The nachos came in a small cast iron skillet. The waitress said that everything except the nachos is the regular menu size. Either way, I could not even eat half the nachos since I knew what else was coming. But the nachos were great. A different flavor with every bite. I really, really liked them. Then my sandwich came. It was beautiful. The rustic ciabatta bread was grilled with a garlic aioli - I could have had two (or twelve) rolls by themselves. This was some phenomenal bread. The sandwich had big chunks of baby back ribs basted in their original BBQ sauce (Memphis style). They also have their hot BBQ sauce (which has a really good kick to it) on the table. Cooked to perfection, it went really well with the coleslaw that was also on the sandwich. The greens were cooked and seasoned perfectly as well. God that bread was good! The cobbler was deconstructed sort-of: it was a piece of a moist, dense cake, with blueberrie sauce all over, served with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and whipped cream. The crumble part was in pieces and sprinkled all around. I thought this was delicious as well. All this for $16!! I took half of the nachos and 3/4 of the sandwich and half the greens home. It is waiting for me to eat it for dinner tonight. I was really surprised how good I thought everything was, especially after hearing such negative things about it over the years. I am really glad that I decided to try it regardless. Now I have a new place to add to my list. Service was really attentive and helpful.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: WildSwede

                                                                    Thank you for your enthusiastic, detailed review....like you I had only heard bad to "meh" things about Gus's BBQ but after your review I visited the restaurant and had a great, comfortable meal I had the same sandwich that you had (Barbecue Rib) and can't add more than you have but it was yummy and I am not a big sandwich person....I did order the red velvet cake and it was a large, moist slice. Service was slow but friendly and I would return to this place and plan to visit for breakfast in the near future.

                                                                  2. We tucked in to our final DineLA menu last night: Pinot Bistro in Studio City. It was fine. Just fine. Can't particularly see going back.

                                                                    Ambience is lovely: nice, warm decor, white tablecloths, good service. Our waiter was very efficient and knowledgable, but sometimes a little too quick and abrupt in this tone & movements. Everyone else moved like a graceful, well trained machine.

                                                                    We started with French Onion soup (good enough) & ceasar salad (also good enough). Next the garlic chicken and frites: the chicken certainly looked good and the garlic crusted skin was flavorful. But the meat itself was dry and tough. I would not order this again, although I understand it is a dish they are know for.

                                                                    Mr. H went with the beef short ribs bourginonne with root vegetables. This was delicious- nice tender succulent meat in a rich red wine sauce. This would be worth ordering should we ever return.

                                                                    Desserts were good- profiteroles with chocolate sauce for him (nice crispy shell, good ice cream and thick chocolate sauce). For me the chocolate brioche bread pudding. Chunks of melted chocolate in with a very nice bread pudding. I ordered coffee with dessert and it was actually excellent, not burnt or old.

                                                                    With a couple of glasses of wine, meal came to $110. It was all fine, nothing really worth returning over. No complaints just nothing to write home about.

                                                                    So for us, our DineLA favorite was Spago hands down. We we definitely be back. My second choice was Jar, I'm still strategizing a reunion with the butterscotch pudding. Mr. H puts the Olive Kitchen + Bar next. Really says I. Yes, he liked it for it's casual friendliness and abundance. The menu items particularly appeal to Mr. H. Poor Pinot Bistro is the last choice of us both. We just found it to be fine, nothing more.

                                                                    -----
                                                                    Spago
                                                                    176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

                                                                    Pinot Bistro
                                                                    12969 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604